Brad Pitt joined President Bill Clinton on the stage at this year's Clinton Global Initiative in New York City to talk about the Make It Right campaign, a project that Brad Pitt started in 2007 to help rebuild the lower 9th ward in New Orleans. But he’s not just throwing his considerable star power behind a simple rebuilding process.
Every house that the Make It Right puts together is certified LEED platinum – and even more amazingly each house is being built at less then $150 a square foot. That’s below the cost of any of the other (non LEED platinum) houses that are going up in the rebuilding process, and the foundation wants to get their square foot numbers even lower. 13 houses have been completed, incorporating solar power, geothermal heating and cooling systems, Energy Star appliances, tankless water heaters, energy conserving insulation and lighting systems, and there are about 150 more in construction right now.
The special press conference about New Orleans and the Make it Right foundation was one of the highlights of the entire trip. Not only for the star power on the panel (Pitt and Clinton) but also because of the knowledgeable Tom Darden (the CEO of Make it Right) delightful and charismatic ninth ward resident who appeared as someone who benefited from the program.
It’s the oldest trick in the book, putting a human face on the results of your project, but it was something that was mostly missing from the giant numbers and epic problems being tacked at CGI. The woman sitting on stage was wonderful, equipped with stories about lower energy bills and double-flush commodes. She had the entire audience eating out of her hand, and that’s before she brought her cute kids out on the stage.
That’s what I thought we had coming into the conference: a nice story about a star helping out the downtrodden. But the Make it Right crew has even higher goals. Not only are they working to get local contractors up to speed on green building techniques, they are also designing an entire plan that other people can follow.
They have set out to prove, once and for all, that there’s an entire industry here that can build green without paying a penny more then the old methods. This is a program that will transform not only the lower 9th ward, but also set up a model for redevelopment in any other situation.